Iran has welcomed Russia’s proposal to Syria to put its chemical stockpile under international control in order to avoid “militarism in the region.”
“Iran considers the [proposition] of this initiative within the framework of stopping militarism in the region,” Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said during the ministry’s weekly press conference on Tuesday.
The proposal, which has been “welcomed” by Damascus, was made during a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Moscow on Monday.
The Russian initiative came shortly after US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London that the only way for Syria to avert US military action is to hand over its entire stockpile of chemical weapons within a week.
The US has based its recent threat of striking Syria on the unsubstantiated accusation that the Syrian government was behind a chemical attack in Damascus on August 21. The Syrian government has categorically rejected the allegation.
The White House, however, says it has no “irrefutable” evidence of the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons and that only a “strong common-sense test irrespective of the intelligence” suggests the Syrian army was responsible for the August poison gas attack.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, “We are opposed to using chemical weapons and want the region cleared from chemical weapons.”
The Iranian official also expressed concern over the possession of chemical weapons by the terrorist groups in Syria and said, “Any initiative [regarding chemical weapons] must also include the [entire] spectrum of terrorists.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that “ample intelligence” indicates that Takfiri and extremist groups in Syria are in possession of chemical arms.
A UN investigator also said in May there was strong evidence that the militants had used sarin gas in an earlier chemical attack in Syria. An independent Russian inquiry also arrived at a similar conclusion.
Pointing to contacts made with officials of numerous countries on the Syrian crisis by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman emphasized that the Islamic Republic has made the prevention of war its priority and has declared its clear position on the issue.
“We oppose violence, terrorism and extremism and believe any militarism in the region will make the situation uncontrollable,” she reiterated.
Referring to the existing concerns over the breakout of a war, Afkham added, “The concern of the Islamic Republic is not merely for a single country, but it is for the entire region.”
She then emphasized that all countries in the region “have a responsibility for preventing militarism, the occurrence of war and the further complication of conditions.”
The Iranian official went on to slam the US for trying to turn its red line, “which stems from domestic pressures,” into a red line for the international community.
She also described cooperation between Iran and Syria as “good and constructive and based on common interests.”